File Naming: Overall Philosophy

While there are many different file naming conventions around the industry—indeed every studio and facility is different, and some have internal variances—a general paradigm for naming files has emerged. We will describe a specific recommended working schema that can be adjusted and used for just about any audio file delivery needs. Generally speaking, one should organize the fields hierarchically with the most general metadata field first, followed by the next most general and so on, ending with the most unique metadata of that specific file.

A filename can be thought of as a hierarchical linear database with fields containing metadata useful to the end user in determining its correct use. We propose a common-practice schema in which the mandatory fields are separated by an underscore (_). There are four groups of fields which are internally separated by hyphens (-), with the first field being mandatory for final deliverable elements and the others optional.

Fields 1a-1d encompass the various aspects of the title, 2a-2b the version (either editorial or language), 5a-5b, the category and sub-category, and 7a-7d various levels of technical specs.

Even within the work on a given movie, during post-production and before a mix is locked, many fields can be omitted or shortened to save space, based on the assumption that these elements will only be used by the filmmakers contemporaneously, and there is little chance in the future that someone else will have to use them. Similarly, at that time there is no need to note the speed of the element or the dynamic range of the mix–it’s known!

Fields that can be shortened: The title can be written as an acronym, and not the full ShortTitle. (Unless the title itself is short, then use the full stupid thing.) The date can omit the year, while retaining the month and date.

This is of course not the case with final deliverables, which should always begin with the 14-characters-or-less CamelCase title style.

For example:

TPM_v3_ ST-FX_ R1_0925_51.L.wav…

… would be the FX stem of the reel 1 of the v3 temp dub, on September 25, of Tent Pole Movie, and:

TentPoleMovie_Dom_Snd31_Thea_ ST-FX_ R1_24fps_ 20231024_ 51.L.wav

… would be the FX stem of the final domestic theatrical mix on October 24, 2023